Fear of Speaking English

Do you ever feel nervous when you speak English? Do you feel so afraid you cannot speak?

Here is a question from the AJE (Ask John English) Forum from Dilly:

I’m not sure if this has been asked before, but do you have any tips on overcoming the fear of speaking English?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to speak naturally and effortlessly. My mind goes blank and I stutter. I tend to worry about being laughed at for making mistakes – even though I guess nobody is perfect and mistakes are a part of learning.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but I feel my English is not good enough.

Is there anything I could do to stop being so self-conscious when I speak?

He then describes how he feels:

I’ve seen people being looked down on and made fun of for not speaking correct English, so I fear the same might happen to me.

I don’t worry about making mistakes around my friends because I know they wouldn’t judge me based on how well I speak. But I get uncomfortable and tongue tied with strangers or people who are too critical.

Also, I’m a perfectionist, so I’m probably my worst critic. If I go wrong, I can’t help beating myself up over it. It happens in my own language too but more so in English since I’m less fluent in it.

Here is my answer to his question:

Hi Dilly

This is a great question! Something almost everyone experiences at some time.

I have written some new free lessons that looks at exactly this topic. Make sure you sign up to get them here: http://free.askjohnenglish.com/

I understand your fear. Actually, I sometimes feel very shy – I think everyone does, especially when they are meeting new people or they are somewhere they don’t know anyone, for example at a party where you know nobody.

I think one good way to help with this is to have some strategies to help you.

For example, one strategy I use is to ask questions when I meet new people. Of course I do this in a friendly way – don’t be like a policeman asking many many questions on one topic!

What I try to do is ask questions about different topics, until I find a topic I can talk with the person about easily.

The good thing about this strategy, is you can prepare your questions in advance! Then you should feel more comfortable, because you will know what you are going to say.

Darklight also had some good advice for Dilly.


Activity ACTIVITY:

  1. Share your experince in the comments.What do you do when you feel shy or afraid to speak?

    Have you tried something like I suggested before? Let’s give Dilly some great tips!

  2. See Dilly’s post here. Make sure you join the AJE forum so that you can ask questions too, and also help people with their questions.

More Free English Lessons

24 thoughts on “Fear of Speaking English”

  1. yes thanks for your advice “mr john”and i hope ,it Will help me too because, i also in front of this kind of problem. i Will keep it seriously in my mind. since i learn english when i’m alone i feel like my knowledge grows, but when i’m facing english speakers my brain become blank.

  2. Hi John,
    Thanks for writing this , I beleive , it will work !!
    I think the issue which has been describing in above article is common for all the english learners and one solution can not work for all .for an example my problem is when i face my upper management i got blanked and that time is hardest for me .however somehow i am able to manage the situation .
    My problem is that i am working on the role where everyone is expacting very good communciation expecially in english , I can not manage to do mistake infront of the people who are reporting to me and speaking very good english .
    I have been trying to speak good english for a long time but still not able to manage the situation , pronouciation is the weekest part for me .
    i beleive , you would have defenietly help me to became a fearless and fluent english speaker .
    Looking forward to your suggestion and of course guidence .
    Prabhat Chauhan

    1. Thanks John !!
      I have subscribed all your lesson and started working on the areas of improvement .
      John , Is there any way out to get practised of english speaking without facing live audience? and once we get confident and familar we will start communicating .
      Thanks Again.

  3. Hi John,
    I am a new member. Well, I need to improve my speaking English. I feel very shy and I’m afraid the fact that I will make mistakes when I speak. I think in my nature language and after I translate into English. But this way is very slow and sometimes I confused and I can’t speak at all. I need help in order to think quickly and to speak with confidence.

    Thank you

    P.S I can’t log in the Discussion/chat room

    1. Hi Chrysa
      Yes, most people feel nervous when they speak. They are afraid of making mistakes. However, did you know that even native speakers make mistakes sometimes! No one is perfect.
      So try not to worry, and just do your best. You can then have some fun and learn at the same time!
      Where / how do you practice speaking English?

      1. Hello John,
        thank you for your immediate answer. I have just move in England and I practise my speaking English mainly when I go to pick up my child from school as I have a chat with the other mothers and fathers. After a few months I have a big progress in listening and writing but my speaking isn’t so good as I wish to be. What do you suggest me?

        P.S I receive the email that you send me but when I try to go to the link for the chat/discussion room it writes “The website declined to show this webpage” . Is there anything else I can do? Thank you

        1. Hi Chrysa
          Great to hear your English is improving! You say your speaking is not as good as you would like it to be. What is the main difficulty for you? Is it only because you are thinking in your native language and then translating in your head? Or some other issue?
          The best way to improve speaking is to try and talk with people as much as possible. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This lesson on how to echo what you hear may help as well – tell me what you think: http://www.askjohnenglish.com/conversation/how-to-echo

          Sorry to hear the link is not working for you… so this page won’t open for you? http://www.askjohnenglish.com/learn/login/index.php

          How about this one: http://www.askjohnenglish.com/learn/course/view.php?id=5


          1. Thank you John.
            I think that the link is helpful and interesting.
            As for the other two links, I can’t still open them.

            Thank you

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